BEIJING: The Chinese and Sri Lankan presidents on Thursday discussed prospects of trilateral cooperation with India to address New Delhi's security concerns in the Indian Ocean besides ways to boost defence cooperation including personnel training and providing military hardware to Colombo.
Making his first visit to China to re-balance pro-Beijing policies pursued by the previous Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, new Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena held talks for over an hour with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping here on Thursday.
Xi and Sirisena discussed trilateral cooperation between India, China and Sri Lanka mooted by Beijing recently in an apparent bid to address New Delhi's reservations over MSR and its implications for India's security, especially after two Chinese submarines docked in Colombo harbour last year.
"The two leaders also agreed to strengthen trilateral cooperation between China, Sri Lanka and India," Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao told the media after the talks.
"The three are all important countries in the region. It will be really beneficial for the three counties to have cooperation in the areas like economic and social development.
It is part of the China and South Asia cooperation," he said.
Asked whether it was discussed during State Councillor Yang Jiechi's just-concluded visit to India to take part in the border talks, he said "they touched upon the China-South Asia cooperation".
"They had general discussions on China, South Asia relationship," he said referring to Yang's talks in New Delhi.
China proposed the trilateral cooperation after the fall of the Rajapaksa government.
Sirisena also said he hoped to continue with the controversial USD 1.5 billion Colombo Port City project after investigations into environmental and corruption issues.
"Sirisena stressed that what happened around the Port City project was rather temporary," Liu said.
Sirisena told Xi that "problem does not lie with Chinese side and hoped to continue with the project after things are sorted out," Liu said adding that China believes it is a very good project and benefits not only Chinese but Sri Lankans as well in terms of development and job creation.
But the project stated to be key to Xi's ambitious 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) project in the Indian Ocean, stands suspended until the new government reviews its licenses and probes allegations of corruption by the previous government of Rajapaksa.